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US Congress adds new energy members, 'climate change' to House panel title

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US Congress adds new energy members, 'climate change' to House panel title

As the new U.S. Congress moved through its second week, party leaders made headway filling rosters for energy-relevant committees and rebranded one subcommittee to reflect the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives' increased focus on climate change.

On Jan. 8, Republicans on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee again selected U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as chairman. The committee's new GOP members this Congress are Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and Martha McSally of Arizona. The committee will need to find a replacement in two years for Alexander, who announced recently that he will not seek re-election in 2020.

The committee's returning Republican members are Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jim Risch of Idaho, Mike Lee from Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Colorado's Cory Gardner, and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is set to become the Senate energy committee's top Democrat in 2019 after former ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., shifted to the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Manchin's spokesperson, Jonathan Kott, said Senate leaders still need to finalize a resolution before the new committee assignments are official.

"Once that is resolved, [Manchin] will be ranking [member]," Kott said.

Despite stepping down as ranking member, Cantwell will remain a Democratic member of the Senate energy committee along with Ron Wyden of Oregon, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Angus King of Maine and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

Turning to the House, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee recommended Jan. 9 that the following eight new Democrats join the House Energy and Commerce Committee: Nanette Barragán of California, Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Robin Kelly of Illinois, Ann Kuster of New Hampshire, Donald McEachin of Virginia, Tom O'Halleran of Arizona, Darren Soto of Florida and Marc Veasey of Texas.

Other than former Democratic Rep. Gene Green of Texas, who retired, all existing Democratic Energy and Commerce Committee members from last Congress will remain on the committee, including Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who leads the panel's energy subcommittee. Committee spokesman CJ Young said the House Democratic Caucus will vote on the appointments Jan. 14-18. The House's Republican steering committee has yet to finalize its membership for the Energy and Commerce Committee, a GOP aide said.

With Democrats in charge, the House wants to step up its focus on the impacts of climate change. To that end, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., announced Jan. 10 that the panel's environment subcommittee would be renamed the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. The subcommittee's jurisdiction is unchanged from the prior Congress, Pallone's office said.

The environment subcommittee focuses on Clean Air Act and emissions issues and environmental regulations for coal mining, oil and gas production, and electric generation, among other things. The Subcommittee on Energy, whose name was unchanged, will still have jurisdiction over national energy policy, including utility and pipeline issues.